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Della vase was prize discovery; Under the Hammer by Mike Litherland of Outhwaite and Litherland.

ON a recent house clearance our team was asked to remove all saleable items. With job done, one of them decided to take one more look around and on a windowsill he saw a broken vase.

When he spoke to our client about it he was told: "Oh the vase is broken, I'm throwing it out." On close inspection it turned out to be made by the designer Charles Collis for the Della Robbia factory, Birkenhead.

Della Robbia today is highly collectable and commands high prices. The vase sold recently at auction for PS1,100, even with damage.

Della Robbia was founded by Harold Rathbone in 1894 using local labour and red clays found in nearby Moreton. Rathbone set out to emulate the architectural ornament of the 15th century Della Robbias, an Italian Renaissance sculpture family he so admired. The business lasted just 12 years and closed in 1906.

His co-founder Conrad Dressler, himself a sculptor and inventor of the tunnel kiln, a method of firing pottery that revolutionised the pottery industry, was mainly responsible for the decorative architectural panels, many of which can still be seen in Birkenhead and Liverpool, as well as in local museums.

The brightly coloured panels, inspired by the work of the Florentine sculptor Luca Della Robbia and his family, did not prove to be very popular on the dark brick buildings of the period.

The pottery turned to producing large two-handled vases, presentation wares, wall chargers and plates, as well as ceramic clock cases, tiled window boxes, vases and similar wares, as a source of income. Dressler left the pottery in 1897 to establish his own pottery, the Medmemham Pottery, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

The Della Robbia mark is usually handwritten on the base of pieces with a ship device, and often the initials of the designer and decorator, and sometimes the date.

The costs of making the Della Robbia products was greater than the prices that could be charged so in 1900 Marianne de Caluwe joined the pottery, injecting finance as well as bringing a new direction with her strong Art Nouveau influence. But even a renewed interest from 1900 to 1904 meant the pottery could not make a commercial success of itself and closed in 1906.

The Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead is where you''ll find the finest collection of Della Robbia on public display, it's well worth a visit.

We are now accepting quality items for our next Antique Sale. Our Free Valuation Day at our Southport office has proved popular, but if you have items that are too large to bring in, just email: a photo, or we can come to you.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 5, 2014
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